Learning to Relax

I have a hard time relaxing. I have a million and a half things on my to-do list, and it’s difficult for me to take a break when I know there are so many things that need to get done. In college I was the student who took a break from one class’s homework assignment to do another class’s homework assignment. I was surprised to be told that it didn’t really count as a break—it was just a shift in activity.

I love to be productive. I get an adrenaline boost with every item I check off the list, and I feel good about myself when I accomplish a lot. But sometimes my productivity starts to say things about my worth that I don’t think it should be saying, so I need to stop doing and just be for a change.

That is really difficult for me. Even my leisure time is spent on projects. I love DIY projects. But when getting them done starts to produce anxiety, it’s no longer leisure. It’s time to take a break. And not one that involves another project.

So what does the project-aholic need to relax? To engage in activity (or inactivity) that doesn’t allow for productivity. And that’s harder than it sounds, because even reading a book (which I enjoy) becomes a project half-way through because I just want to know the ending and I rush through the rest just to get to the end.

I think that the activities/ inactivities that would help me relax are the ones that don’t require resolution or completion. Things like:

  • journaling without reaching an “a-ha!” moment but just processing extemporaneous thoughts
  • running on a treadmill or elliptical that gives me a chance to sweat out some stress without having to finish some route/course
  • taking a nap
  • staring blankly at a wall or out a window, allowing any thoughts to come and go as they please
  • sitting on a beach and people-watching, or floating in the water
  • flying a kite
  • taking a drive to nowhere in particular
  • having a spa day

If you also have a hard time relaxing, feel free to steal from my ideas. I hope to add more to them over the next few months.